Last night the Tar Heels played Duke at home in Chapel Hill. The game was the first game for the Heels in the ACC tournament, and it was made even more exciting by the rivalry between the teams. The Heels won the game by a score of 1:0, though the Heels were as usual never under much pressure. The boys in bright blue will now go on to the semis, where they will face Virginia on Friday.
The game started out cagey from both teams, and as a result neither team got much of a foothold early on. The Tar Heels attempted to control possession whilst not committing too many men to the attack, a rather oxymoronic prospect. As a result the Blue Devils were able to hold control of the midfield, but like the Tar Heels never pressed forward in attack. The first real shot of the game was a Duke effort made dangerous not by its quality but by the slight deflection it took on the way to goal. Luckily the sharp reflexes of Scott Goodwin easily handled the situation.
As the first half wore on, the Tar Heels applied more and more pressure, and in the 23rd minute it paid off. A steal at the top of the box fed Danny Garcia, who faked once before smashing the ball home at the near post. The goal changed the tone of the game, a change which definitely favored the Tar Heels. They were able to control the midfield and more easily keep possession.
The Blue Devil inability to keep the ball in the Tar Heels’ defensive third meant that they were reduced in their offensive capacity. They had little other avenue but to play long balls into the box and try to head one home. Granted, the Blue Devils are generally deadly from the air. The Devils may be good, but the Tar Heel defense is even better. If the Maryland game taught us nothing else, it’s that there’s no luck to be had against the Tar Heels from the air. It took 103 minutes for the Terps to start making chances from the ground, but when they did they won after being held from the air all game.
Tar Heel defense was as stellar as we’ve come to expect, and for this the Devils never made any good goalscoring chances. The UNC defense and Scott Goodwin held out every cross and in only a few instances even conceded a bad shot.
The Tar Heels made a few chances in the second half, highlighted by a 65th minute chance when a cross into the box was capped by a Andy Craven bicycle kick, which was unfortunately kept out. On three occasions were the Tar Heels able to penetrate the Duke defense only to cross for no result, despite having a good angle for a shot. This trend is worrying, as it suggests that the Tar Heels may be getting “pass happy” and hesitant to shoot.
The Devils tried to finish the game with more pressure. In the 75th the Blue Devils managed to put a little fear into Tar Heel hearts, as a grounded ball got loose in the box and was fired at goal. Luckily, it stayed out. The Tar Heels responded to the threat with a simple strategy of keep ball, which they held for the rest of the game.
The Tar Heels will go on to play Friday against Virginia, in a game which should be broadcast on ESPN3. Look to Keeping It Heel for coverage of the game as well as a preview Thursday night.